Decoding Calvinism: Does Unconditional Election Include a Forced Change, a Freely Chosen Change, or Both?

There are many examples of confusing language regarding man’s free exercise of faith in Calvinism. Lewis Sperry Chafer responds to Arminians’ rejection of the term “sovereign grace” and their charge that such coerces or annuls the human will by saying, “No step can be taken in the accomplishment of His sovereign purpose which will even tend to coerce the human volition. He does awaken the mind of man to spiritual sanity and brings before him the desirability of salvation through Christ. If by His power, God creates new visions of the reality of sin and of the blessedness of Christ as Savior and under this enlightenment men choose to be saved, their wills are not coerced nor are they deprived of the action of any part of their own beings. It is the unreasoned objection of Arminians that the human will is annulled by sovereign election.”[1] Continue reading →

Compatible and Libertarian Freedom

A Comparison between Calvinism’s Compatible View of Moral Freedom and Extensivism’s Libertarian Freedom

In order to understand the actual contrast between Calvinism’s view of the nature of God, His sovereign rule over His creation, and His salvation plan, with that of Extensivism’s view of the same, one must understand the two position’s vastly different views of what it means for man to be free to choose and be responsible for his choices.

I use the term Extensivism in this article as a general term that encompasses various orthodox perspectives that believe God truly desires for every person to be saved. This desire of God is evidenced by His extensive salvational love and provision for all (John 3:16; John 2:2). Extensivism stands in contrast to Calvinism’s exclusive perspective which limits salvation to only the unconditional elect.[1] Continue reading →

Thoughts Regarding “Extensivism,” and Why I Chose the Term to Represent My Perspective on God’s Great Salvation Plan

I use the term Extensivism to encapsulate my soteriological (salvational) understanding. I gave considerable thought in choosing the term. Although only used by me (hence, the need to continuously define for others), it does seem to be free of negative connotations and appears to me to be a suitable parallel for discussing soteriology within this Calvinist/non-Calvinist theological milieu in which I live. That is, consistent Calvinism is soteriologically exclusive (limited salvific love, limited unconditional election, limited efficacious call, limited atonement, etc.); whereas, we who disagree with that exclusive approach do so because we believe the Scripture teaches an extensive soteriology. The term also permits me to avoid spending time defending the nuances of other non-Calvinist perspectives with whom I agree on many points. Continue reading →

One Former Longtime Calvinist’s Journey from Calvinism to Extensivism: A Summary

I was a Calvinist for over thirty-three years and was unabashedly so for the first twenty. I spent the last thirteen years questioning and evaluating the harmony between Calvinism and Scripture and only doffed the label Calvinist in the final months of that journey.

A respondent to one of my blogs on SBC Today commented on this journey, and I thought I would share my reply here in order to briefly touch upon my departure from Calvinism.

The blogger said, “Your personal testimony is that, a study of Sola Scriptura is what lead you out of the Calvinism to which you held for decades.” Continue reading →

Why Some Non-Calvinists Identify as Calvinists

While many don the designation Calvinist because they have endeavored to learn all the aspects of Calvinism and are thereby convinced that it provides the most cogent, comprehensive, and consistent grid through which to understand Scripture, others readily adopt the appellation less nobly.

Of this latter variety, it seems to me that many assume the title “Calvinist” because they like certain components of Calvinism, which they are led to believe are unique to Calvinism. Such conclusions may arise from their exposure to the claims of some Calvinists to that effect, the inadequacy of explanations or responses of those who reject Calvinism, or even from their own subjective assumptions. Such beliefs are exampled by God’s sovereignty, the preeminence of God’s glory, or the total depravity of fallen man. Continue reading →

All Calvinist Believe in Double Predestination

John Calvin is unabashed in his defense of his views and says, “Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated….This they do ignorantly, and childishly, since there could be no election without this opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts for salvation. It were most absurd to say, that he admits others fortuitously, or that they by their industry acquire what election alone confers on a few. Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children”[1] Continue reading →

Faith is the Condition of Salvation and Grace is the Work of Salvation

Calvinists take solace in the claim that they believe salvation is totally a work of God (unconditional election, man’s passiveness until selective regeneration, regeneration prompting faith, etc.,), while oftentimes either implying or explicitly accusing those who make salvation conditioned upon man exercising faith (exercising faith in response to hearing the gospel prior to regeneration or forgiveness) as being less than a total work of God or stealing some of God’s glory in the work of salvation. According to Calvinists, this conditional nature of salvation (as opposed to monergism and man’s total passiveness prior to regeneration) is supposed to emanate from, at best, a lesser view of salvation by grace and God’s sovereignty, which results in some sort of communal glory or credit between man and God for one’s salvation. Fortunately, Calvinism’s final conclusion is reasoned from Calvinism rather than Scripture. Continue reading →

God is Equally Pleased to Save Some, and Damn Most!

John Piper said, “The book of life…represents God’s free and unconditional election…. In the New Testament the book of life is synonymous with the list of those who are elect and predestined for eternal life.”[1] John Calvin said, “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”[2] (italics added) Continue reading →

God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Libertarian Freedom: In Balance

Millard Erickson holds to a compatibilist view of moral freedom, as do virtually all Calvinists. Compatibilism is the perspective that determinism and moral freedom are compatible; hence, the name. To wit, man makes a free choice when he chooses according to his greatest desire; however, what is often overlooked is that the desire from which he freely chooses is the product of inviolable determinative antecedents. Thus, man does not have the ability, given the same past, to make a different choice than he does in fact make at any given moral moment; accordingly, man’s free choice is not just certain, but it is in fact necessary given one’s past. Continue reading →

God Can Know the Free Acts of Man without Making Them Determinatively Necessary

Calvinists often argue that defending man as possessing libertarian free will (giving man a true choice between walking with God or not walking with Him and therefore the outcomes being conditional) not only places man’s salvation in his own hands, but it also creates uncertainties that would mean that God would not know everything since (as the argument goes) one cannot know an uncertainty for certain. On the other hand, the Calvinist idea is that all actions are predetermined by God either through decrees, compatibilism, or both and this makes everything certain and therefore knowable. This understanding makes the theological reality[1] of libertarian free will an impossibility in Calvinism. Fortunately, the impossibility is merely a Calvinistic impossibility rather than an actual one.

Continue reading →